Monday, 12 September 2011

Roman Holiday: Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony (12th September 2011)

As an Entertainment Book member, I'm often sent deals (in addition to the ones in the book) via email and one recent deal I received was a 2-for-1 A reserve ticket deal to Sydney Symphony's Roman Holiday: Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony (normally $95 per person for an A reserve ticket). "Keen to check it out?" I asked Jono. "Cool - looks good," was his response and so we sat together to have a look at the seating plan and purchased our tickets over the phone.

Jono and I met at Sydney Opera House at 6.30pm - this was the first time both of us were inside the iconic building and it was huge with a wide range of venues and facilities on site. There were so many people gathered outside the Concert Hall where the performance would be held this evening - Jono and I had a hard time finding each other in the midst of the crowd and it didn't help that the phone reception was pretty bad inside the building. I could hardly hear a word he was saying - it was so garbled and disconnected. We eventually managed to locate each other as I spotted him heading up the stairs. Jono had rushed over from work and not had any dinner so was having coffee and cake while waiting for me to turn up. He actually left our coffees (he ordered one for me too) and his cake in the care of an older gentlemen who was also having his coffee prior to the performance and sitting at the same long table while Jono came looking for me!

Around 6.45pm, we headed into the Concert Hall for the 7pm start. The Concert Hall is the largest venue inside the Sydney Opera House and it was pretty amazing - with high vaulted ceiling, brush box and white birch timber finishings, this venue is designed primarily for acoustic performances. We were seated right in the middle of the Circle Box upstairs and had a view of the whole orchestra. Probably a few rows further front would be better to get a closer look at the musicians but it was good enough for the cost we paid. View from our seats taken from my phone:



There were people who had seats behind the orchestra - I don't understand why people would bother sitting there. Ok, they may be cheap but to spend most of the time looking at the backs of the musicians, hmm, I think I would rather pay a bit more to get the front view.

The symphony started off with Mendelssohn's The Fair Melusine - Overture, a fairytale of enchantment, a mermaid and a broken promise composed into song, easing guests into an evening of classical music. This was then followed by the Horn Concerto No. 1 by Richard Strauss, featuring Ben Jacks on the horn who was performing without musical score but from memory. It was interesting to watch the horn player, how he controls the valves that routes air into the tubing to change the pitch and pulling parts of the horn apart to tip out bits of water - Jono assured me it was not saliva but water from condensation.

The performance took a 20-minute interval before resuming with Respighi's The Birds. In this suite, the orchestra mimics a series of bird calls - dove, hen, nightingale and cuckoo - all distinctly different yet its contrast perfectly performed in this baroque-inspired piece. And to close off the symphony, we again return to Mendelssohn, this time listening to Symphony No. 4, Italian, a picture postcard of a tourist's perspective of the life and culture in Italy. 

I enjoyed our first symphony in Sydney though I agree with Jono that this was too pleasant (he prefers more 'dramatic' classical tunes). Roman Holiday only has 4 performances and we were quite fortunate to still get tickets to the final performance. Despite the audience's claps for an encore, the orchestra only responded with gracious bows and after about the third round of clapping and bowing, the audience gave up and started exiting the hall.

The symphony ended at 9pm and we headed over to Circular Quay to catch the train home. Feeling slightly peckish, Jono decided to get a combo meal from Hungry Jacks (Australia's equivalent of Burger King) located at the train station and was snacking on his fast food while we waited for the train. Urgh, it was rather yuck - I've had better Hungry Jacks than this elsewhere. We're definitely not getting Hungry Jacks from here again...


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